September 1, 2007 · Print This Article · Email This Post

Geographer Caitlin UptonHere you have it, in a nutshell: “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, um, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future.”

And thus spoke Miss South Carolina, Caitlin Upton, 18, in the recent Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant (Mercifully, she came in fourth.), when asked this question by judge Aimee Teegarden: “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?”

Map of the World

Strangely, it’s hard to find a decent map of the world online. This was the best we could do. If you’ll notice, North America consists of…the mainland of the United States and Alaska. Hawaii didn’t make the cut, and neither did Canada. Cartography must be a dying art form.

The humiliated Miss Upton shot to Youtube video fame, with over three million incredulous views per day. This reminds us of some alarming conversations Pajamadeen has had with fellow Americans. One time, while Pajamadeen was getting her nails done and talking to the manicurist about a return trip to Canada, the manicurist looked up and said: “You know, I don’t really know where Canada is.” We were dumbfounded, especially since the manicurist’s sister lives in Northern Wisconsin and the manicurist has made several trips there. We wondered what she thought would happen if she bypassed her sister’s house and kept driving north? Drop off the edge of the earth?

Alternative View of North AmericaThe situation was no better with a local veterinarian, who was updating our dog’s rabies shot for a trip to Canada. After he stuck the dog, the Auburn University graduate, who holds a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine, turned to Pajamadeen and said: “You know, I don’t really understand what happens at the border. Are there like fences there or something?” We managed to contain our laughter until we made it to the parking lot, in the interim explaining to the poor man that there are perfectly good roads on which one enters Canada, stopping briefly for Canadian Customs at the border. Unless you are stupid enough to carry in guns, which another hapless American friend of ours attempted to do. There was a loaded shotgun in a closet of the borrowed camper which he was driving and, when asked by customs if he had any firearms on board, he answered no. After a search of the camper produced the shotgun, our dumbfounded friend said he didn’t know it was there. This wasted hours of time, of course.

We were once at a picnic at the manicurist’s house and a McDonald’s manager expressed great surprise at the news that McDonald’s, Walmart, etc. are in Canada. So take pity on Miss South Carolina. She is not alone in her geographic confusion. The world revolves around us, you know.

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Photo credit: Patrick Prather, AP

Copyright ©2007


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